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LWF membership, Handbook of the Christian Netherlands and more ...

Tomatoes for sale <BR><BR>Ester Kabura,
Tomatoes for sale
Ester Kabura, displaced by the post-election violence in Kenya, found temporary shelter in a makeshift camp at Moi Air Force Base, near Mathare. While there she has kept her small business going, selling tomatoes to other displaced people.
Lutheran World Federation membership increased to more than 68.3 million in 2007, up from 66.7 million in 2006 and 66.2 million in 2005. The increase is attributed to a growth of 2 million members across LWF member church bodies in Africa. Asian churches also had an increase of 100,000, while other regions showed slight decreases. Including non-LWF members(such as the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod), the number of world Lutherans stands at 71.8 million. Some 3.5 million Lutherans belong to non-LWF member churches, a decrease of 0.5 percent. Germany, which has many LWF and non-LWF churches, has the highest number of Lutherans in the world (12.6 million). Latin America and the Caribbean had 822,074 LWF members, a slight decrease. The largest Lutheran churches are: the Church of Sweden (6.9 million), the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (4,869,157), the ELCA (4,774,203; a 1.6 percent decrease) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (4,632,480; a 32.4 percent increase).

• A new Dutch-language “Handbook of the Christian Netherlands” states that the Netherlands, with 648 churches, congregations and meetings, has the most Christian denominations and religious movements—after the U.S. The U.S. has more than 2,000 Christian denominations and movements.

• Jerry Lamb, 67, was elected bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of San Joaquin (Calif.). Unhappy with the national church’s decisions on homosexuality and scriptural authority, the previous bishop, John-David Schofield, was removed from ministry when he seceded from the church. Schofield also didn’t allow female clergy to serve in the diocese. Most of the diocese’s 7,500 members in 47 congregations voted to follow Schofield and align with conservatives in the Argentina-based Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. A property dispute continues, as Schofield and the dissident congregations continue to occupy property the Episcopal Church claims to own.

• In Japan, a stage musical, Sempo, opened about a Christian man called the “Japanese Schindler,” who saved about 6,000 Jews who sought asylum from the Nazis. Chiune Sugihara, a World War II diplomat serving in Lithuania, went against his government’s orders and issued Jews visas to escape via the Soviet Union and Japan to a third country. Sugihara, who died in 1986, told those he saved that his name was “Sempo.” Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, is credited with saving nearly 1,200 Jews during World War II.

Lutheran World Federation President Mark S. Hanson, Pope Benedict XVI and other world religious leaders condemned the Feb. 29 kidnapping and subsequent death of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. During the kidnapping, three of Rahho’s companions were killed. News sources reported that the church received a ransom demand. Rahho’s body was found March 13, with cause of death unknown. About 70 percent of Iraq’s 700,000 Christians belong to the Chaldean church, which is in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Since the U.S.-led occupation, Iraqi Christians have been perceived as loyal to the U.S. and targeted by extremists, according to the Associated Press.

• Following the violent protests of Kenya’s bitterly contested Dec. 27 general election, church leaders are helping to create a national healing and reconciliation process. Lutheran and other church bodies provide food, emergency relief and help in resettling more than 300,000 people displaced by the violence. Walter Obare, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, is keeping the remains of a Bible from a burned church “as a reminder of what happened to our church.” Springs of Life, a Lutheran congregation in Kibera, was burned in the post-election violence.

• Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, said the cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence “will not save the Holy Land.” Younan said he was shocked by a March 6 attack on a Jewish religious seminary in which a Palestinian gunman killed eight people and wounded 11. More than 110 Palestinians died in the same week under Israeli military attacks after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israeli towns in the south. Younan said Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders are in dialogue about the conflict, but that moderates need to prepare for opposition from extremists who “on both sides are taking over.” Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, said religious leaders must support a cease-fire. “We need a religious voice for sanity,” he said.

• After Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections, two church-related groups said they feared President Robert Mugabe and his ruling party, Zanu-PF, would steal power. On April 1, the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and the Save Zimbabwe Campaign called upon a government-appointed electoral commission to immediately release election results. The Christian Alliance’s statement read: “With Kenya’s violence so fresh in our minds, it is not acceptable to delay the timely announcement of results as if to provoke the already highly charged electorate.” At presstime, election results were not known, and four development agencies, including Tearfund, requested action to stop the government from rigging the elections. The agencies said official vote announcements didn’t match those registered and displayed at polling stations.


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